By Rich Brown
JOPLIN, Mo. —
So, you say you're not into gospel music, and those old traditional church hymns don't do anything for you, either?
Say hello to the Cornwell Twins.
Next year will mark four decades that this Joplin duo has sung across the United States and in six countries having fun with their singing ministry and, in the process, blessing others.
Blaine and Boyd Cornwell, 1978 graduates of Ozark Christian College, grew up with a love for 1960s and '70s music and found a way to translate that love into their ministry, which involves substituting Christian lyrics into into songs from that era.
"The one thing that is unique about our ministry is that once we get into a church one time, the congregation goes wild because of the uniqueness of the oldie but goodie songs with Christian words," said Blaine Cornwell, who has partnered with his brother in producing four albums. "Plus, with every song, Boyd and I have been blessed to have memorized hundreds of scriptures to where we are able to put the Bible out there between the songs, which is unique. That is why people are able to come away from there saying 'we caught a sermon in song."
Some churches have been so taken back by the twins' style that they have even let them take over the pulpit on Sunday morning. However, Blaine adds that most preachers do not like to give the pulpit up.
In addition to churches and church groups, the Cornwells, who are longtime members of College Heights Christian Church, have sung at assisted living facilities, nursing homes, prisons and public schools, to name a few.
One unusual place, to say the least, has been on commercial airliners. When pilots or airline hostesses find out they are in the presence of singing ministers, they often request a command performance. Of course, the cordial Cornwells are quick to oblige, usually standing in front of the plane to deliver their musical message from memory.
"We always have a captive audience," said a smiling Boyd.
Even though the dynamic duo consider themselves semi-retired, they still put much of their energy into their singing, now mostly at churches on Sundays and Wednesdays.
Another fascinating side to the twins, who live in Joplin, has to do with their world travels. However, it hasn't just been for their music ministry.
They also served as professional golf caddies for 21 years, winding up that profession five years ago.
The golfing portion of their careers came in 1987 during a ministry trip to Sarasota, Fla. With the sport being a longtime attraction for the athletic brothers, they attended a Ladies Professional Golf Association tournament. Two players on the tour asked them to sing at their Bible study and eventually to caddy for them.
"After caddying for them, we said, hey, we can go and do this full-time, especially since we love golf," Blaine said. "What a dream, to carry pros' bags and get paid for it."
Beginning in January of 1987, the Cornwells went out every year during golf season until hanging it up in 2008.
"We did all the main tours, including about eight years on the PGA (Professional Golf Association) Tour," Blaine said. "We felt like caddying was part of our ministry because we would hand out tracts and witness to people."
A golfing highlight for Blaine came when he was caddying at a celebrity tournament where he came across Clint Eastwood. It was common for the twins to carry Christian tracts around to distribute at each tourney.
"The Lord convicted me about Eastwood," said Blaine. "He said, 'OK, let's see if you can handle this one. You hand these tracts out to scorekeepers, caddies, etc., so how about this one?'
"So I handed a tract to him and said 'Mr. Eastwood, this tract says someone died and left you a fortune. That is my lord and savior, Jesus Christ. Here, I want you to take this tract.' I was so nervous, but he took it and said thank you and I walked away feeling higher than a kite."
Of course, the down side for the ministry was that tournaments would often require missing church on Sunday.
However, the twins never neglected Bible study.
"I think the thing that helped us more than anything else when we were caddying was staying strong in the Lord," Boyd said. "We spent at least an hour or two every morning with the Lord. If we had an 8:30 tee time and we had to meet our player at 7:30, the Lord would wake us up at 5 a.m. to spend time with Him. We didn't even need an alarm."
With golf now in their past, the twins have turned their focus totally toward the singing ministry. They consider it a blessing from God because they were originally planning to teach and coach in public schools, which they actually did in Ohio before going to OCC.
Although Blaine swears that music not a natural thing for him and his brother, and they are not that musically inclined, he quickly added that their music has still blessed a lot of people.
"Our message is effective and the uniqueness of what we do is so different that people still say today, 'Wow, secular songs with Christian words; we love it,'" he said.